Stagecoach Group, which runs East Midlands Trains serving the Sleaford area and Lincolnshire, has been shortlisted by the Department for Transport to be invited to tender for the new East Midlands rail franchise.
The East Midlands franchise incorporates intercity and regional passenger services, with around 470 train services a day and an annual 26 million passengers.
It includes intercity train services on the Midland Main Line linking Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield with London St Pancras. A network of local lines serves destinations including Sleaford, Grantham, Lincoln and Mansfield. The franchise also provides services to Luton Airport Parkway and East Midlands Parkway stations.
Stagecoach, which has operated the network under the East Midlands Trains brand since 2007, is one of three bidders to have pre-qualified for the new franchise.
The Invitation to Tender for the franchise is expected to be published in the next few months. The new franchise is due to start in 2018 when the current East Midlands Trains contract comes to an end.
Stagecoach Group chief executive Martin Griffiths said: “We are proud of our track record over the past decade of investment and working in partnership with Network Rail, local authorities and other stakeholders to transform rail services for customers, becoming consistently the most punctual long-distance train operator in the country. We have achieved that by putting customers at the heart of everything we do and giving our people the tools to do the job.
“The railway in the East Midlands is crucial to the regional economy. There is a huge opportunity to build on the network’s success to create new jobs, build the skills of our people and improve connectivity across the region. We can also leverage our experience of bringing train and track closer together to develop plans that deliver a better customer experience to today’s passengers and those we attract in the future.
“We look forward to working with local stakeholders on shaping our plans which will also deliver significant value to the taxpayer to reinvest in public services.”
The DfT has started consulting with passengers, businesses and local councils on the specification for the new franchise. It has yet to confirm the length of the new contract, although the DfT has indicated it is likely to be between seven and 15 years.